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Old 29-12-2007, 06:19   #1
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The Sun Between My Topsiders

In 1982, my wife Mary and I chartered a bareboat from Caribbean Sailing Yachts (CSY) in the BVI. Sailing in the BVI is heaven on earth for me - tolerated by Mary out of kindness to me. Bill and Amy Denison rounded out the crew.

First morning, at the CSY marina. There she was. The Hornblower. A cutter rigged, stern cockpit, 37 footer designed and built by CSY, tied stern-to at the pier. Fueled and provisioned for a week of island hopping through paradise.

Important footnote. The CSY 37 has a cushioned, semi-circular, ‘U’ shaped (as seen from the fore-aft axis) helmsperson’s seat. The idea is that the boat can heel at any angle and the helmsperson can sit on a level seat by shifting the part of the seat sat on (I hope this phrasing is sufficiently delicate for all audiences). As I discovered from use, on long tacks, sitting on a horizontal perch in the manner that this seat permits is a comfort feature and energy saver for the helmsperson.

After a skipper’s briefing on shore and the lengthy onboard check-out of the boat with a CSY staffer, I was in a hurry to get underway. Picture postcard-type places to go to; white, palm tree lined beaches to see; warm, clear, amber colored water to swim in; rum and Cokes to drink; brilliant, hot sun to sunbathe in; picturesque anchorages to anchor in; Mary in her bikini ….. But I get carried away.

OK. Everything and everyone was ready. The long awaited, eagerly anticipated moment had arrived. Time to drop lines and head out. The wind was dead astern, perfect for an easy departure from the slip.

My exit plan was simple. Mary, Bill and Amy would be stationed on the bow to remove dock lines from pilings forward as we motored past them. I would untie the stern lines on the pier, hop on board, put the engine in gear and slowly motor forward to clear the pilings, then turn left – er, to port – and out into the Sir Francis Drake Channel.

I couldn’t help noticing that the CSY staffer who had given us our onboard checkout was idling about on the pier. I knew what this was about. CSY reserved the right to require me to take a professional skipper onboard for the week at my expense or cancel the charter if my boat-handling (or, more to the point, lack thereof) warranted in their judgment. The staffer was there to assess my seamanship in departing the marina. Confident of my ability and of the adequacy of the sailing resume I had submitted to CSY when applying for the charter, I did not worry about this detail.

Time to put the exit plan into action. Engine started. Crew ready. I stepped onto the pier and untied the stern lines, threw them aboard, and stepped onto the stern as the boat started to drift forward thanks to the favorable wind. Looking forward to make sure that we were not drifting onto one of the pilings, I kicked over the taffrail and stepped onto the above-described helmsperson’s seat. More specifically, I stepped onto the cushion at the upper edge of the semicircle or, if you will , the top of the inside of the ‘U.’

Well, with remarkable speed, my foot and the cushion slid around the semicircular contour of the seat. I lost my balance and my body continued the rotation begun by my foot. In seconds I was inverted, hanging in air, heels over head, looking at the midday sun between my Docksiders. It seemed like I was weightless, upside down in midair for ten minutes. In fact, however, the laws of physics were not temporarily suspended, and after what can only have been an instant, I landed on the cockpit deck with a crash thinking, “Lotta’ good my sailing resume is going to do me now.”

The silence of the crew members on the foredeck and the observer on the pier was deafening.

No time to survey damage to pride or body.

I jumped to my feet, put the engine in gear and slowly motored forward clear of the pilings, then turned left – er, to port – and out into the Sir Francis Drake Channel. The crew came back to the cockpit slowly, quietly and without eye contact with me. Never heard a word from the CSY staffer on the pier. Why not I do not know.

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Old 29-12-2007, 06:31   #2
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Clearly, he recognized your ability to make a speedy recovery without skipping a beat and carrying on regardless as great attributes in a sailor!
Great story, thanks for sharing!

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Old 29-12-2007, 06:36   #3
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It is also possible that the CSY guy was so stunned by what he had seen that he was unable to act before we got away.
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Old 29-12-2007, 10:22   #4
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I recall single handing my little boat (Venture 21) one time and after launching, paddling backwards to get some room and hoisting the sails, I jumped from the coaming into the cockpit seat to sheet in and drive. Unfortunately, I had these foam cushions on the seats which happened to have moisture under them. My feet flew in the air like on ice and I came slamming down with a HUGE crash. I too, jumped to my feet and finished my job. It was so loud, folks partying on the beach 200' away all stopped to see what was up. Not much, just me sitting there, bright red, trying to get my wind back and avoid the jet skis.
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Old 01-01-2008, 08:48   #5
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No running, no jumping and one hand on the boat at all times. I have a nasty habit of stepping on ropes laying on the cockpit and foredecks. More slickery than ice ;-)
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Old 01-01-2008, 11:54   #6
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Well, ya gonne tell the rest of the story?
Perhaps submit a picture of Mary in her Bikini..?

Waiting patiently.

Life is sexually transmitted
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